You know you need some hot Sand next to your towel or chaise lounge to get that “Ooh, I am in Hawaii and today at the Beach is gonna’ be so good” vibe going. Letting that sand pour across your feet is a key component, and no place does it better than Hawaii.
When you stop and think about all the things that come to mind when you think about Hawaii, you have to admit that Hawaii “Sand” is usually one of the Top 5. Maybe even the Top 3. Hawaii has some incredible Sand at its Beaches, and the great news is that the geography of Hawaii is working 24 hours per day, and 7days per week, and 365 days a year to continue to produce some of the most beautiful Sand in the Pacific Ocean Region . It is nature at its finest, and we want all Super Beach enthusiasts to understand how it is made, what it is doing, and how to appreciate it most.
Sand on Hawaii is made up of a variety of components, not the least of which is volcanic materials which emanated from rock when the island was formed. Beaches in Hawaii may be made of 'black sand' derived from the erosion of volcanic rocks, of 'white sand' made by marine organisms, or a mixture of both. On the windward side of the Big Island, for example, black sand beaches are very common. The beach at South Point is almost entirely green sand composed of olivine, a common mineral found in the volcanic rocks here in Hawaii. On the Kona coast of the Big Island and on some of the other islands, the beaches have a range of mixed compositions, some with a high volcanic component, some dominated by calcareous (reef-derived) sediment. Beach and submarine sands in Kailua Bay on the windward side of Oahu, are almost entirely composed of calcareous, reef-derived material. On average, only about 5% of the sand grains are volcanic minerals or rock fragments. Every beach is unique and has its own source and type of sediments.
So Hawaiian Sand is a Shell Game
Because Hawaii does not have a continental source of quartz sand like mainland beaches, the 'white' beaches and marine sediments here in the islands are primarily composed of the carbonate shells and skeletons of marine organisms, such as corals, algae, mollusks, foraminifera, echinoderms, and bryozoans. Take a minute, and roll some Hawaiian Sand around in your hand when you visit the beach. You will find shells and much other marine skeletons easily visible.
Colored Sand in the Hawaiian Islands
As mentioned above, Hawaii has several different colors of sand to appreciate. Many East Coast American visitors are surprised to not see the whiter sand beaches they are familiar with, nor the size of the beaches associated with that Coast. The reason for this is geographic “birthdays”. Hawaii is just not as “old” (geologically speaking) as the Eastern Coast of the United States. The older the beach, the wider and whiter it tends to become… But not always!
Black Sand Beaches
Hawaii Black Sand Beaches are a testimony to the powerful effects of active volcanic activity. When hot basalt volcanic lava hits the cooling Pacific Ocean, the results are usually explosive, and the glass like black lava sand generated (that loves to stick to your feet, arms, and bathing suit) will testify. Black Sand Beaches have a reputation for not standing still for long. As soon as natures forces get done piling up Black Sand on a Beach, some other force in nature starts taking it away. It is always give and take.
In recent decades many Black Sand Beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii have been covered over by direct Volcanic activity, and others are losing sand to erosion and the forces inherent in the Ocean tides. Also, because of the dark color of the Black Sand, it can retain an enormous amount of feet searing heat. Bring you flip-flops or shoes for transits on hot days!
Even still, a black Sand Beach, Coconut trees, a warm gentile trade wind blowing sweetly over sun warmed blue ocean, …. Yummy, that’s Hawaii!
Red Sand Beach
Red Earth in Hawaii is not rare, however seeing it as Sand at the Beach is new for most visitors. The Red Sand is caused by high Iron content in the materials that was used in the making of the Sand, and nowhere is this more vivid than Kaihalulu Bay, and “Red Sand Beach” on the Island of Maui.
Red Sand Beach is beautiful to behold, however the water clarity is often cloudy because of the Iron dissolving into the seawater. If you are trying to snorkel here, time your snorkeling to coincide with the start of the incoming tide. Snorkel results are still mixed - but generally better.
Green Sand Beaches
Large deposits of Olivine in the soil create a green glow in the sand and surrounding cliffs creating the sand. South Point, on the Big Island of Hawaii is famous for this wild remote Beach, and the eerie green tint that glows in the brilliant sunlight. Maui too has large deposits of Olivine in the western region, but little sand has formed near the pools associated with this portion of Beach there.
Green Sand Beaches tend to continue to refine with time as sun, wind, rain and tide breaks down the Olivine into progressively smaller components. This fact, tends to cloud the seawater a bit in these areas, but the natural flushing action of the sea can bring clear seawater - generally with an incoming tide.
Because of the uniquesness of the colors of the Green Sand Beaches, visitors tend to want to see them up close, but rarely do you find swimmers or snorkelers in these locations. Often, people are just passing by from one attraction to the next, and prefer not to be wet while here. Too bad, some really unique Green Sand delights await those who stay!
Yellow and Brown Sand Beaches
The Yellow to Brown Sand color spectrum still consistently garners favorite votes here in Hawai'i. These Beaches with their darker Sand hues absorb more heat in the day, and produce that happy glow on Beach goers, and that super heated "dance-trot" across the sand if you cross mid-day without flip-flops or shoes. Make no mistake, mid-day Hawaii Sand is hot stuff!
Still the color contrast to the azure of the ocean is pleasing to the eye, and seems to be foundational in the Hawaiian visitor expectation set. The Island of Maui contains a plethora of incredible Beaches with Sand in the Yellow and Brown Sand Beach Category, and these Beaches consistently rank highest in visits, swims, and snorkels per day. With the large concentrations of Yellow and Brown Sands here, we can plan on a lifetime of pleasure from these wonderful Sand beaches.
White Sand Beaches
By now I am sure you would agree, that Hawai'i has an amazing collection of Sand and Beaches! Another favored component in Hawaii Sand Beach appreciation is the Hawaii White Sand Beach.
These beaches are typically made from marine organisms that have bleached white with the sun. They are consistently being reduced by wind, rain, and tide and shine brightly in the noon day sun. White Sand Beaches are a favorite too in Hawaii, and many of these beaches consistently rank in the Top 10 Internationally.
The whiter Hawaiian Sand in these areas also gives the water a very unique azure hue on the se Beaches as well. The light reflects more completely with a whiter backdrop under the water, and the effect is that the blue color lightens the mopre shallow the water. Deeper water once again regains the deep blue synonomous with open water sea blue. Quick caution here to for protection from UV sun rays when bathing on a white sand beach. The solar reflection is higher here in that you get direct sunlight and reflected sunlight back from the white Sand Beach. Bring your sunblock and make the day last!
Pebble Sand Beaches
Looking for some privacy (to be alone with your Hawaiian Sand)? Beach Sand (with a larger diameter) is referred to as "Pebble" Sand, and this Beach Sand form is also common in Hawaii. For reasons of comfort to the feet, many people do not use Pebble Sand beaches for their aquatic and sunning pleasure, and this reality can leave an enormous opportunity for the beach loving enthusiast to be quite alone on a beach for extended periods of time.
Another wonderful component unique to Sand Beaches with larger size pebbles, is that the pebbles make a very pleasing sound as the waves go back and forth. They will sing to you all day long!
SBHawaii.com Additional Information on Hawaiian Sand:
• Origins and Composition of Hawai'i Sand
• General SBHawaii.com Information on Hawai'i Sand